HOUSTON — A week before the end of the regular season, Aaron Boone said he didn’t expect injured Aaron Hicks to be a factor in the postseason.
But when the Yankees’ ALCS roster was announced late Saturday morning, Hicks was on it.
The centerfielder, sidelined since Aug. 4 with a flexor strain in his right elbow, made the roster along with CC Sabathia. The lefthander was one of 13 pitchers the Yankees took into the ALCS, which began Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.
“We feel confident that he’s healthy and we know how good of a player he is and how impactful of a player he can be,” Aaron Boone said before Game 1. “But there’s obviously the little bit of the unknown in just that he hasn’t played [in a while]. He was able to get 10, 15 sim at-bats down in Tampa. Hopefully that prepares him. We’ll see how his role potentially evolves over the series.”
Boone said that for now, Hicks will be a late-inning defensive replacement for Giancarlo Stanton in left.
Neither Hicks nor Sabathia was on the ALDS roster as the Yankees swept the Twins. Their inclusion on the ALCS roster bumped utilityman Tyler Wade and first baseman Luke Voit, who were in uniform for the ALDS, off the ALCS roster.
Not having Wade could create concern about the Yankees’ depth because of his ability to play three infield positions (and the outfield), but the tougher conversation was with Voit.
The first baseman had a productive start to the season but then was sidelined by a sports hernia and ended the season in a 1-for-33 slump.
“These guys are like race cars. When something’s a little bit off, it’s a little bit different,” said Boone, not completely dismissing the possibility that Voit never fully recovered from the sports hernia. “So I don’t know how much that had a role . . . It was a difficult decision to make, frankly, a difficult conversation to have. He was disappointed. Understandably.”
Hicks, who signed a seven-year, $70 million extension in spring training, figured to be done for the season after suffering the elbow strain in early August.
“I don’t know if there’s enough time or anything to get back at any point in the playoffs,” Boone said Sept. 22. “I wouldn’t expect that.”
Neither did the switch-hitting Hicks, who flew to California shortly after getting hurt Aug. 3 to meet with a specialist for a second opinion and considered getting Tommy John surgery. Hicks even returned to his home in Arizona in mid-August, figuring his baseball activity was done for the calendar year.
To his surprise, the elbow stopped hurting and he returned to the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa to start rehabbing, though the prospect of healing in time for the postseason still was considered a long shot.
“What happened was I was at home, just sitting on the couch thinking about what I just heard about getting Tommy John or waiting for weeks to see how it goes,” Hicks said after working out at the Stadium on Thursday. “I was just messing around in the backyard with my buddy to hit in the cage and I was setting things up for him. I was like, man, my arm kind of feels good right now.”
As for Sabathia, 39, he’ll be a bullpen option after getting past the left shoulder soreness that kept him off the ALDS roster.
Sabathia, set to retire whenever the Yankees’ season ends, made the first regular-season relief appearance of his career Sept. 24 against the Rays and pitched well, striking out two in a perfect inning. Then the shoulder acted up and he did not throw the rest of the final week of the season.
Said Sabathia, “Having that extra time off has my shoulder feeling that much better.”